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28th March, 20215 min read

5 at-home arm exercises

Medical reviewer: Dr Ann Nainan
Author: Daniel Piggott
Last reviewed: 24/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Strengthening your arm muscles can help tone your arms, as well as help you perform daily activities and recover from injury more easily.

Some of these at-home arm exercises use dumbbells (you can use filled water bottles instead) or a resistance band, while others use your own bodyweight as resistance.

Speak to your doctor before doing these exercises if you have any injuries – or if you experience shoulder pain or elbow pain while doing these exercises, or afterwards.

Shoulder press

Holding dumbbells or a resistance band (place it under your feet and grab each end), bend your elbows to shoulder level with your fists facing upwards. Extend your arms above your head, bringing your hands closer together. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled motion.

James Davis, personal trainer and co-creator of The Midlife Mentors recommends aiming for 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions – use an amount of weight or resistance that makes it hard for you to complete the final 1 or 2 repetitions of your last set.

“Once you can complete all the repetitions of your final set, add slightly more weight or resistance so that you keep making progress,” James says.

Lateral raise

Holding dumbbells or a resistance band (place it under your feet and grab each end), start with your elbows straight and hands by your side, palms facing in. Lift your arms away from your body to shoulder height, keeping them straight. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled motion.

James advises aiming for 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, using an amount of weight or resistance that challenges you to complete the last 1 or 2 repetitions of your final set. Once you can easily complete all repetitions of your final set, add more weight or resistance.

Biceps curl

Holding dumbbells or a resistance band (place it under your feet and grab each end), start with your elbows straight and hands by your side, palms facing up. Bend your elbows, moving your fists towards your shoulders, as far as possible. Straighten your elbows.

James says, “Aim for 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions with an amount of weight or resistance that makes it tough to complete the last 1 or 2 repetitions of your final set. Once you can complete all the repetitions of your final set, add a bit more weight or resistance so that you keep progressing.”

It’s important to keep your back straight when doing biceps curls – don’t try to lift too much weight.

Push-up

Straighten your arms and place the palms of your hands flat on the floor, underneath your shoulders with fingers pointing forward. Straighten your knees and hips so your body is straight and off the floor – don’t allow your lower back to sink. Then, bend your elbows so your body lowers to the floor – stop about 5cm from the floor. Straighten your elbows again.

If this is too difficult, try doing a push-up on your knees. It’s the same movement as the full push-up, but with your knees bent and resting on the floor.

James says, “Aim to do as many repetitions as you can while keeping good form. Rest for 1 minute, then go again. Rest for another minute and then do a final set of as many repetitions as you can with good form.”

James suggests that when you feel you’re ready to do more, add an extra repetition to each set. If you’re easily doing more than 20 repetitions, loop a resistance band across your shoulders and secure it under your palms to increase resistance.

Triceps dip

Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the floor, hands behind you with your fingers pointing towards you. Lift your hips off the floor. Then bend your elbows to lower yourself close to the floor before straightening your elbows again. To challenge yourself, do the triceps dip with your hands on a step or bench.

“Aim to do as many repetitions as you can with good form. Rest for 1 minute and repeat. Rest for 1 more minute and then do a final set of as many repetitions as you can with good form,” James says.

When you’re ready to progress, James suggests moving to a step or bench, or adding a filled water bottle to your lap to increase resistance.

Key points

  • strengthening your arm muscles can tone your arms and help you perform daily activities more easily
  • arm exercises can be done at home with dumbbells or a resistance band
  • you can use household items such as filled water bottles instead of dumbbells
  • some arm exercises use your bodyweight as resistance and don’t require any equipment
  • speak to your doctor if you experience any pain during or after doing arm exercises
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